Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 7/8 to 1 1/2 inches (2.2-3.8 cm).  Underwings are gray brown with a postmedian line that zigzags toward the two short hindwing tails.  A large blue patch is often slightly capped with orange; a short row of orange spots that decreases in size moves up the hindwing edge.  In northern parts of the state, this line of orange is slight.  In coastal areas, this line tends to be much more pronounced, almost resembling a flame.  Upperside wings are brown with a small orange spot near the tails.  Males have a dark forewing patch (stigma).

ID Tip: Jagged line that forms an M (or a W) on ventral hindwing near tails.  No blue iridescence on topside of wings.

Egg: Flattened, disc shaped eggs are rusty brown and deposited on twigs or in crevices of host tree. Eggs are the overwintering stage.

Caterpillar: Pale green, covered with tiny yellow dots.  These caterpillars are highly camouflaged with the oak catkins (flowering structure) that they eat.

Chrysalis: Mottled brown and pellet shaped. 

Oak Hairstreaks produce only one brood per year and are the earliest of the Satyrium hairstreaks to take wing. There are two distinct subspecies, Northern (S. favonious ontario) and Southern (S. favonius favonius), which have at times been considered separate species. In Alabama, 'northern' Oak Hairstreaks are considered rare, and sightings usually consist of a single butterfly. The row of orange spots that moves up the hindwing edge is very short, sometimes only appearing as a spot or two. These butterflies are most often found in the northern two-thirds of the state.  'Southern' Oak Hairstreaks are typically encountered in the southern Coastal Region, where Oak Hairstreaks tend to be more prevalent. The row of orange spots on their hindwings is much more prevalent and noticeable.

Oak Hairstreaks are an enigma.  Their range is statewide, their known host plants are common trees, but sightings are spotty and colonies seem transient.  Part of the explanation may be that they spend much of their day in the treetops, so good binoculars and good neck muscles are needed to see them.

 

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Baldwin, Bibb, DeKalb, Hale, Jefferson, Marengo, Mobile, Shelby

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
25 3 4 8 3

Habitat

Openings near deciduous woodland edges; scrub-oak communities and oak forests.

Host and Nectar Plants

Various oaks (Quercus spp.) are reported. These include White (Q. alba), Post (Q. stellata), Laurel (Q. laurifolia), Live (Q. virginiana), and Blackjack (Q. marilandica).

No host plant has yet been verified in Alabama.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Including oak trees in the landscape is highly beneficial to butterflies and other wildlife.